Jobs in the Perfume and Aromas Industry

Posted on 16 September 2007 by Heidi

Among the unusual industries that make up the Swiss economy is the chemical industry.

Perfume and aroma manufacturers are an important contributor to professional work opportunities in Switzerland. The Swiss perfume industry prefers to flourish outside of the public spotlight but is nonetheless omnipresent in daily life: from toothpaste, to shower gel, cosmetics, perfumes, detergents and food additives.

In Dubendorf, near Zurich, Givaudan has an enormous manufacturing plant where the aromas and flavors in vogue as well as those in development for the future are produced.

The Givaudan premises employs roughly 450 people, many in chemistry and laboratory fields.

At the Givaudan plant, the smell is all around you. The visitor is immediately struck by the odors, difficult to identify, and changing as one walks about the premises.

At Givaudan, the professionals involved in making the scents have highly developed olfactory senses and are capable of identifying hundreds of different smells, which they associate with a souvenir or an emotion as a mnemonic device.

Givaudan trains groups of specialists, highly selected among the professionals who apply each year, for tuition at the Perfume School established in Paris.

In order to be a successful professional in the field of developing aromas, one needs both experience and a powerful memory.

The Givaudan plant dates to the late 19th century, and part of the buildings harbor the production of more than 4000 aromas in powder and liquid form, destined for a range of multinationals in the food industry. Givaudan is the world leader in aromas and fragrances having purchased the Dutch Quest last year. In Switzerland, the chemical sector, which includes the perfume and aromas industries, is an important sector which contributes thousands of jobs and demands highly skilled professionals.

Part of the production is entirely automated via complex machinery which do the mixing of the chemistry. Other mixtures are done in small quantities manually by the employees, carefully controlled by olfactory testing, before being delivered to their buyers. The manufacturing is not limited to the Zurich site; there are other subsidiaries in over 40 countries.

In the laboratories in Dubendorf near Zurich, the R&D is located, and perfumes and aromas are developed here. The company spends roughly $ 200 million per year on its R&D activities to discover new molecules whose olfactory properties can be added to its already impressive list of patented aromas.

The difference, in the perfume industry, is not just in the invention of new aromas. The proper production of the resulting perfume must be done correctly. Givaudan produces on average at least 2-4 new aromas each year.

Among the most recent discoveries of Givaudan introduced into the market were ‘Florymoss,’ ‘Pomarose’ (a mixture of apple and rose), and ‘Javanol’ (a mixture that reproduces the odor of sandalwood). These synthetic perfumes are usually used in the detergent and washing industries, and the rest in the fine perfumes industry.

Scientists at Givaudan are currently active in making citrus perfumes. Smell is an emotional sense and the vocabulary is often lacking to describe the variety of odors we perceive. This is a big problem when it comes time to present a pallet of odors and aromas to clients.

To accomplish this, Givaudan had to develop several years back a solution: a portable suitcase which could disseminate the new creations and permit immediate modifications at the customer site, according to the client’s taste.

If the labs at Dubendorf are fixed on trying to imitate as close as possible the smells of Mother Nature, the secret to reproducing the odors to be found in nature is often hard to crack.

Givaudan organizes expeditions called ‘taste treks’ where researchers go around the world to the most improbable places to seek out unknown vegetable species.

Last year, in the Valley of Death in California, Givaudan’s team found an exceptional flower resulting from strong rains. Habitually it is in the jungles from Madagascar to New Guinea, which are explored by these researchers for new smells, seeking a new flower or fruit which could give rise to a new moneymaking perfume or aroma. The teams carry special appliances which permit them to capture the essences of the plant’s or fruit’s molecules.
Once they discover a new plant species, they need to find a way to reproduce the odor’s formula. In this business, odors and aromas, molecules are patented for 20 years. Once this time limit as elapsed, the molecules fall into the public domain, where thy can be copied at will.

Thus the accent placed by Givaudan on its R&D, which is indispensable for conserving a lead in the marketplace, where other companies such as Firmenich and IGG, or Symrise or Takasago are important competitors. Givaudan also has a large center in Geneva.

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